I remember every detail of the drive on that April morning. In a way, it felt as if Zach and I were actors in a movie. Since the day I was born Easter Sunday began the same way – ironing dresses, curling my hair, polishing my church shoes back when that was a thing. Truly, this was the day to look my “Sunday best.” Yet, here I was speeding down the interstate with no make-up, my hair was not brushed, and I would later discover that in my rush to get out the door, I threw on my 10-year-old son’s t-shirt (I was 40.) It was windy that day, and I can remember our minivan swaying against the force of the wind as we drove in silence. The silence was deafening, but amidst the chaos, there was a peace that can only be explained by the presence of the Holy Spirit.
One hour before this road trip began, our family of six was bundled up on the porch watching the sun come up as we read the story of the resurrection. We started the tradition of an Easter Sunrise time of devotion eight years before, and not once during the early hours of the morning was I interrupted by my phone. Most of the world was still asleep, and so, when my phone began buzzing at 6:45am on Easter Sunday, I was moved to check it but quickly recanted. Something about checking my phone while reading about the resurrected Savior didn’t feel right. Minutes later, as our devotional came to a close, I read the words “CALL ME ASAP” from the birth mother of the child we committed to adopt.
This is not meant to be a blog about our adoption story, so I will save the specifics of this story and that particular call for another setting. However, to help paint the picture of the seriousness of our situation, you should know that the birth mother was only 27 weeks pregnant and began hemorrhaging. She was rushed via ambulance to the closest hospital to her and would undergo an emergency C-section. We were two and half hours from this hospital, and as we were flying down the interstate, I was fighting the urge to begin googling “all the possible scenarios.” I could muster only stillness. I was frozen in the passenger seat, praying silently for the safety of this child that I knew was meant to live.
The silence was broken as the ringing of my phone blared through the car speakers. The number ringing was very close to this situation, and for a split second, I hesitated to answer. Bracing myself, I hit the green button and answered, “Hello.”
“Am I on speaker phone?”
“Would you mind taking me off and handing the phone to Zach?”
I watched Zach’s facial expressions, knowing within my heart that the words he would relay to me were not good.
Zach: “She was unresponsive at birth, and he doesn’t think she made it.”
I picked up my phone, and the only thing I could think to do was to call on my community. I began texting everyone: “She was born not breathing; they are trying to revive her now; pray.” I copied and pasted those 13 words to everyone I knew at 10:38am Easter morning, which just so happens to be when most of my community was in church. At 10:58am, I texted: “She’s stable.”
I could bring this blog to a close in a few short sentences. I could recall how so many of my friends told stories of their churches stopping to pray in this moment. I could highlight the beauty of a community that would stop to pray for my daughter. I would definitely love to quote a verse that I simply read over the years in my quiet time but now understand it to be truly true.
“The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working. Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed fervently that it might not rain, and for three years and six months it did not rain on the earth. Then he prayed again, and heaven gave rain, and the earth bore its fruit” James 5:16-18. Prayer matters.
I believe with all my heart that God heard the prayers of His people on that Sunday morning, and Ruth Harvest Dasher was resurrected on Easter Sunday 2021.
But if I stopped here, it would be a dishonor to the God who works all things for the good of those who love him. If you peered into my life and heart just five short years before this Easter Sunday, you would see a shell of a girl who was ready to write off community. You would see an exhausted wife and mother who was hurt by community and wanted nothing to do with people. For years, I was the poster child for community to the point that I allowed “my community” to become an idol. Idols never work and people are far too weak to be placed on such mighty pedestals. Surely, the answer is to batten down the hatches of your life and let no one into the inner sanctuaries of your heart. Keep everyone at arm’s length. Just sit on the pew. Don’t lead, don’t get involved in peoples’ lives; just coast and keep it all in the family. Surely, this is the answer.
I tried the “no community” life, and to be honest, it felt safe. If my relationships are only surface level, then no one can get hurt, right? Wrong. Safety cannot replace our intrinsic desire to be known and loved. We were made in the image of a relational God. Three in One. Three separate beings perfectly loving one another. God within Himself is community, and because of this, we all, even if we bury it, desire community in our lives.
If you are hurt by community and are reading this right now, I want you to know that I deeply feel your pain. I deeply understand your fear and get your desire to crawl into a hole and swear off community. While affirming the pain you experience, I want to simultaneously challenge you to consider a thought. If you wall off your potential to be hurt by keeping everyone at arm’s length, then are you not also preventing yourself from being loved by the very people who will one day stop everything they are doing to pray for you?
Yes, the likelihood that you will be hurt somewhere down the road by someone in your community is very high, and likewise, you will, more than once, be the cause of pain in someone else’s life. We are all broken vessels navigating dangerous waters, but still, we are better at navigating together.
Your communities may change and that’s okay. I’m reminded of the scripture in Acts 15 where Paul and Barnabas decided to go separate ways, due to a “sharp disagreement,” but neither of them went alone. You need others and others need you. As you begin to open your heart to community once again, make sure you are not building with bricks of division. It’s easy to come out of a community gone wrong situation and allow your anger and frustration to become the DNA of your new community. This is a trap from the evil one. Communities built on division will never last. In other words, build or rebuild communities that are “FOR” and not “AGAINST.”
Finally, to the one who is thriving in their community. Yay! Community is good because God is good, and He loves when His people live in unity. “How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity” Psalm 133:1. As with all good things, Satan schemes to distort them for his great pleasure. One way He attempts to do this is by elevating our “community” to a place that should only be reserved for God. He does this by creating closed circles of people that become so close that there is no room for anyone else. Communities led by the Holy Spirit always have room for one more because, as God’s people, we understand that ultimately, our “community” is far and wide. Our community crosses mountains and oceans; to the ends of the earth, we are God’s people, and through His blood, we will forever be connected.
I’m so thankful that God pulled me out of my pit of despair all those years ago. I’m thankful for my intimate community and the community of God’s people at large. To every person who prayed for us on that Easter morning just shy of a year ago, I cannot begin to thank you enough, but still, thank you. God is good. He is healer – healer of broken hearts and healer of hearts that have yet to begin beating.
Jill Dasher is the author of the brand new book SHALLOW, drowning in the shallow end of people’s approval. She is a blogger and Christian speaker who is passionate about sharing the freedom that exists when you refuse to live in hiding & freely submit all of your fears, flaws, & failures to the God who made you. She resides in the mountains of NC with her husband and five children.